Category Archives: Family of Origin

What Should I Do About Mother Dearest?

I have been pondering how to proceed with my relationship with my mother for many months (years?), so thought I’d put it out to you fabulous peeps to see if you have any advice. First, a little context.

My dad is definitely a narcissist, my mother I’m on the fence about. She’s very self-absorbed, and when I was growing up her abuse was primarily in the area of emotional incest and parental alienation. I was made to feel responsible for her feelings at all times, and constantly expected to show that I was on her side and against my father. I don’t remember a time when it wasn’t so. I also don’t remember ever feeling really loved. (However, I do remember constantly going to my mother as a young child asking, “Do you love me?”)

In my twenties, I went through a period of trying to be an awesome daughter, loving, understanding, supportive, whatever i thought it would take to build that Hollywood family I craved. In my mid-thirties, I started to become aware that I had grown up in an abusive home, and in the last year I’ve really come to learn about narcissism which has changed the way I see my parents.

My relationship with my father is ok now. I understand who/what he is and expect very little from him emotionally but, because he has been able to acknowledge the difficult childhood my sister and I were given, I feel able to move forward with him in some capacity, albeit with quite limited contact. (Easy to do since he lives on the other side of the world.)

My mother, on the other hand, isn’t open to the conversation of my childhood and instantly became defensive when I tried to bring it up a few years ago, and continues to be very self-centred in all her behaviours. She expresses an interest in what I’m doing only to gather enough information so she can brag to others. She always speaks at me or over me, and I’ve noticed that every time I’ve had an emotional fallout, she has immediately made it about herself and provided no emotional support whatsoever.

I understand that being married to my father would have been brutal, and that probably the emotional incest etc was her way of surviving in a very unhappy marriage. Part of me feels like after everything she’s been through in her life, I should be able to suck it up and spend a little time with her once in a while; after all, I don’t think she’s a bad person, I just think she’s a bit ignorant and incredibly self-absorbed. The other part of me thinks spending time with her now has no bearing on the past, so her past shouldn’t be part of my decision making process today.

For the last 8 months, I haven’t really spoken to her other than when I had to drive her to my niece’s birthday party in May, and even then I barely spoke to her in the car. I haven’t missed her in my life, and I have no desire to see her or want to be around her. She asked if she could stop by last week because she was going to be in the area, and I said no. 

As we’re heading into family gathering season (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.), I feel I need to start planning ahead for how I’m going to handle this. I’ve already started thinking I’m going to bail on Thanksgiving which means she will spend it alone. (My sister bailed on most family gatherings years ago, leaving me last woman standing.) I can handle the guilt of that.

My quandary is this: should I try to look at this relationship as a further opportunity for personal growth and work at keeping her in my life because she’s my mother, or should I gradually this relationship erode as I’ve already been doing, recognizing that I don’t feel she actually adds anything positive to my life anyway? 

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and maybe how you’ve handled adult relationships with your selfish parent(s). If you’ve previously written a post about a similar kind of quandary, please include a link in your reply so I can pop over to read it.





Basking in the warmth of narcissistic parents

For the 4 years that my narc was wreaking havoc on my life, my family knew little to nothing about the situation. After my mother’s reaction to my last break-up 4.5 years ago (“Oh that’s too bad he broke up with you. Regardless of how he treated you, I was excited I’d finally have a son-in-law I liked.”), I decided to opt out of including her in anything personal in my life again.

However, I decided towards the end of last year to have everyone meet my narc. I don’t actually care about my family – they’ve let me down far too many times for me to allow them any significant role in my life anymore – but I thought it would be interesting to watch how everyone interacts. I also had already begun to realize how much like my dad my narc was, so it was a bit of an experiment to put them in the same space to see what happens. Two people who both think they’re so charming, both always need to be right – this should be good. And it was. Dad adored narc, at one point gleefully exclaiming “I can see that you, (narc), are one of those rare people – you are a very intelligent man!” Eyeroll. Gag. Suspicions confirmed.

So, now that the relationship is over, it’s interesting to see how my family has responded.

Mother: “So now tell me what happened with (narc)?”

Me: “He was a jerk, he’s not a good guy.”

Mother: “Ah, I knew it! When I met him, I liked him at first but then I noticed it was always about him and by the end I didn’t like him anymore. That’s why I asked. I wanted to know I was right.”  <end of conversation>

Oh good, I’m glad you were right. For a second I thought you might be asking because you actually cared about me and how I’m doing, but that was a crazy thought. Silly me. Please carry on about how right you were. I wouldn’t want to spoil this delightful victorious moment for you.

Father: “I wonder if you could indicate to me where to look for a good description and definition of that disorder. Does it affect both genders or is it characteristic for males only?”

I send him a couple of links.

Feather: “When I finish the reading I shall tell you why I have been asking.”

Anyone want to bet that he’s not asking because he wants to better understand what I’ve been through so he can support me? Either he’s diagnosing his parents or, more likely, my mother.

In the meantime, father’s wife (with whom I have had no direct contact about this breakup) sends me an email:

Stepmom: ” I don’t think your dad is narcissistic, he is more of the opposite.  Often he loses temper out of frustration and some sort of inferiority complex.”

Um yeah, stepmom, he’s a narc. That’s not even up for debate, but thanks.

OK so let’s stop harping on the parents. In anticipation of visiting my sister and brother-in-law who just had a new baby, my brother-in-law asked if I’ll be bringing my narc with me.

Me: “I broke up with (narc) a few weeks ago so I definitely won’t be bringing him.”

Brother-in-law: “We liked him!”

Me: “‎Ugh don’t tell me that. He was an abusive asshole alcoholic. He hid it well though.”

Brother-in-law: “But he was good with (our daughter) and that is about as far down our noses as (your sister) and I see. I trust that he didn’t hurt you…..”

Me: “Oodles of emotional abuse but never laid a hand on me. Anyway, I’d be quite happy if his name didn’t come up on the weekend.” <no response>

That weekend, in front of my son and mother and niece, one of the first questions out of my sister’s mouth:

Sister: “So what happened with (narc)?”

Me: “I don’t want to talk about it.”

If only I had clearly stated my wishes that I didn’t want it to come up at the family event. Oh wait, I did.


There is one last family  member – my brother who lives across the country. He was actually the first person I told about the relationship ending – I guess it felt safer because he is the farthest away. I’ve always felt that he’s a lot like my mother, though, so I guess this exchange shouldn’t have surprised me:

Brother: “Mom said you have a new sweetie.”

Me: “I broke up with him 2.5 weeks ago. It was that alcoholic I told you about. It’s been a brutal 4 year rollercoaster with him. She knows nothing about it.”

Brother (5 days later): “More snow… I’m going to die of it this year.”

That’s a wrap folks. Final family empathy score: zero. Moving on.